Interview: Chance McKinney on going from school teacher to country music artist, his EP I and more

Singer/songwriter Chance McKinney is a former member of the duo Nathan Chance, and he won CMT’s Music City Madness competition with his song, “Be Real.” He’s performed with some of the largest names in country, including Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Sunny Sweeney, Alan Jackson, Ronnie Dunn, Darius Rucker and more. A high school teacher turned successful singer/songwriter, Chance has a unique story and is currently on the road with Keith Anderson.

Chance’s EP I was released earlier this year and he more recently released the video for his single Take It Back.

We caught up with Chance to discuss going from teacher to country music artist , his EP I and more.

Hi Chance, how are you?

Doing well thanks… I was in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Louisiana and Mississippi all in the last 21 days… the Louisiana and Mississippi is still a little foggy, but I’m pretty sure I remember the rest!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your music background, what got you into country music etc?

Born and raised in Montana. Migrated west to Seattle. Accidentally fell into a Motown revue… accidentally started writing country music… accidentally got asked to open for Kenny Chesney as my first country concert… miraculously won a CMT Award while still teaching high school math right out of college, and miraculously ended up right here with a Top 30 album and my first single, “Take It Back” landing at national radio. So, basically accidents and miracles.

I understand you were a teacher? What did you teach and was it hard to leave that profession behind?

Math teacher – Pre-calc and Statistics. Of course it was difficult, some of those kids were some of my biggest inspirations.

What do your old students think of their teacher as a singer/songwriter?

Most of ’em think it’s pretty cool. Wherever I go in the U.S., they seem to find their way out to shows. So, I guess they’re still keeping track of me. How many high school teachers do YOU still keep track of?

Do you ever go back and play for them and give them career advice?

I haven’t been able to yet, but we banter a lot back and forth online. It’s a great feeling to watch them go to college, get jobs and excel. I feel like they survived in spite of me and are doing well. Ha

Tell us about your music – How would you describe your sound?

Industrialized Country. It’s a blend of country lyrics, country vocals, metal guitars, Motown backgrounds and a pop structure. Did ya get all that?

How would you describe yourself as a songwriter?

Lucky. I stumble across some great ideas and cool melodies. I write ’em down and for some reason… people like and relate to ’em. I’d call that pretty damn lucky!

You recently released your EP I – tell us a bit about that please. What was the creative process behind the EP, who did you work with on it?

EP I released in May and debuted in the Top 30 on the album charts. Really excited to see what EP II can do!

I’ve been working with Kevin Ray Lawson for eight years now, and we work amazingly well together. I walk into the studio with songs and ideas, and he translates them into musically acceptable pieces of art and off we go. I’d tell you about the creative process, but hammers, dumpsters, jet engines and grasshoppers are tough to tie into a believable story.

How hard or easy is it to put just four songs together? Were there any songs that didn’t make it? If so, why and will we get a chance to hear them on the next record?

It’s amazingly difficult to narrow stuff down to four songs. But, we know that we only have to wait a few months before our next project comes out, so sitting on songs that don’t fit into what we’re doing currently is a little more palatable. Yeah, you’re gonna get to hear all new stuff SOON. Stay tuned!

Tell us about the song Take It Back – what was the process and story behind the song?

Take It Back” is all of us at one time or another. We all have lost love and then had the opportunity to re-kindle it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But, giving it one more try puts a person’s mind and heart to rest whether it works out or not. There’s closure in knowing one way or the other. Take It Back is an amazingly simple song with so many melodic and lyrical hooks.

What was the idea behind the video? Who starred in it, directed it and talk us through some of the locations.

I actually story-boarded the entire video and took it to director Jake Bowen. With the help of 12 actors (including myself), a “live” shoot and 8 date scenarios, we took 24 hours of filming down to 191 seconds of video. To be honest, it was a pretty amazing feat Jake pulled off… hat tip to that guy. The stars of the film are quite the story themselves. Zac and Kaestle Muir are a young married couple in real life that played the roles of the high school kids that separated when she went off to college, only to be re-united at a Chance McKinney concert some 6 years later. They did an amazing job. Thrust into the lead roles just minutes before we started shooting, they really delivered. Together, they had an on-screen chemistry that mimicked their real-life chemistry. The other actors were a combination of their siblings and former students of mine. It was an all-around awesome experience that couldn’t have come together so fast and so well without a little help from above.

You were just on the road with Keith Anderson, how was that? What are his fans like, have they treated you well?

I was out with Keith earlier this summer… then I was out with Jake Owen on the west coast. We just finished up with Clare Dunn too. I love playing wherever and with whoever I can.

What are you working on next?

EP II is finished and heading for a release date that is soon to be announced. We’re already starting on EP III, as well. Shooting a horror movie spring of 2019. Planning tour dates for March through October of 2019. Writing with some of my favorite co-writes. Planning more radio tours. You name it… I’m doin’ it.

Any plans to visit the UK?

Not yet… but, we’d love to get over there as soon as it makes sense. I’ve heard that it’s an amazing spot for country music, so I’m game whenever the folks of the UK are willing to have me.

Of COURSE we are willing to have you.

Thanks so much Chance.

Thank you!

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